A truly smart “smart grid” is one which empowers consumers and supports broad policy goals in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation.
To that end, VEIC is taking part in the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Smart Grid Customer Engagement Working Group” to develop a framework of best practices for consumer engagement. Christine Donovan and Shawn Enterline from VEIC’s Consulting Division participated in a recent convening of the group in Washington, DC, and will be working over the next several months to develop recommendations in areas such as consumer advocacy and information technology.
The working group is comprised of representatives from utilities, research organizations, advocacy groups, regulators, and others. Its charge is to deliver by March, 2013 a best practices framework that addresses not only the most effective strategies for engaging consumers, but also the most effective ways to accurately measure the degree to which those strategies deliver results.
Getting the approach right matters a lot when it comes to the potential for the smart grid to deliver meaningful consumer benefits. A meta-review by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found wide variations in the level of smart grid-enabled energy efficiency savings being realized by consumers. As the paper noted, “Of critical importance … is the way in which the [smart grid data] feedback is provided and whether people understand the information, believe that they are capable of making a difference, and are motivated to take action.”
Participation in this Working Group is just one of the many ways in which VEIC is trying to ensure that the substantial public investment in smart grid technology translates into benefits for all consumers. Efficiency Vermont, the statewide energy efficiency utility that VEIC has operated since 2000, recently announced its intention to participate in the national Green Button standard to make it easier for consumers to make use of their smart grid data. VEIC is also involved with two separate DOE-funded studies, one specifically focused on low-income households, to shed light on the most effective ways to help consumers maximize the benefits that smart grid data can make possible.